January 7, 2018, Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) displayed their unity and bravery. It so happened that the crewmen were flying their tornado jet in the Yemeni sky on a combat mission, fighting Iran backed Houthi rebels.
Back at the King Khalid airbase, their progress was being monitored by the staff. Terror struck the staff at 3:26 pm when they received a signal that the Tornado had suffered from a technical fault with its oxygen system. Without oxygen, the pilots could not last even minutes in the sky.
The very next signal that the staff at the air base received was that of the pilot and the co-pilot ejecting their seats. About three seconds later, the ground staff stopped receiving signals from the tornado jet and they had no idea where it went.
Both the pilot and the co-pilot had ejected in a remote area of Yemen controlled by the Houthi militants. Since 2014, when the Houthi rebels took over the capital Sanaa and started a war in the country, they have shown no mercy to their enemies.
The pilots have so far led the mission to bomb the Houthis and to take back the land they have illegally occupied by force and chaos. It is hard to imagine what the Houthi militants would do to the pilots who have brought about their reckoning.
It was easy to track the location of the experienced pilot, Al Haqbani because he had activated a transmitter which would continue to send signals for more than 24 hours. This event made the staff react and they passed the information to the relevant authorities.
The jet had gone missing but more importantly, two men were in trouble, so a rescue team was assembled with a smart rescue plan. The rescue team consisted of highly skilled marines on board the Cougar Combat Search and Rescue helicopters.
These Cougars can carry 20 passengers at a time, can be refueled in the air and are equipped with heavy weapons. The commander of the mission advised a plan in which two F15c would provide cover to the cougar.
The plan was to scare away the Houthis into hiding thinking that the F15c’s are coming in for an air strike. During this period, the rescue team would jump in and rescue the pilots.
Apart from this, another six F15 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters were also sent to aid the rescue.
The team arrived to witness that Al-Haqbani had survived and was not captured by the enemy. Whereas the co-pilot Al-Zir had been spotted by the team on top of the mountain and they had picked him up.
The team returned with both the pilots, overwhelmed with joy. Al Haqbani had suffered fractures to his hand and foot and was immediately taken to the hospital.
The interesting fact is that the whole event, from the warning of the technical fault till the picking up of the pilots took 20 minutes. During their return journey, one of the Cougar helicopters was targeted with ground fire but did not suffer any damage.
Later on, the Houthis tried to claim that they had shot down the Saudi jet but the truth stands that it the jet crashed due to a technical fault. The highlight of the whole event is the bravery, intelligence, swiftness, and unity of the RSAF which will surely be remembered in years to come.
Source: Arab News